Pool A Preview: Women’s Division

San Francisco Fury v. Austin Showdown at the 2013 US Open.
Photo by Brandon Wu — UltiPhotos.com

Pool A features the overall one seed, San Francisco Fury, along with two strong and consistent programs having uneven years in Toronto Capitals and Atlanta Ozone. With New York Bent looking to spoil someone’s trip to Frisco, the competition of the bottom three will be exciting to watch, but Fury will be expected to cruise through Thursday.

Nobody wants to finish 4th in this pool. Capitals, Ozone, and Bent are all capable of taking that unwanted honor, with the likely prize of a game against overall four seed Nemesis on Friday. Expect those teams to go all out at one another to avoid that troubling fate.

Fury’s (1) Still The Juggernaut 

If you have only been skimming the headlines and stories of this season, you’d think Fury is having a down year. They went to a tournament without making the final. They lost two games in one weekend. They lost to someone who isn’t Riot. If parity were an NBA poster, they became the big man getting dunked on when they lost to Chicago Nemesis. The rest of the division finally senses opportunity to dethrone the queens of Ultimate.

Isn’t that the story?

Make no mistake, this is Fury. This is the top seed at the tournament and the favorite to win yet another Club Championship.

There’s no sign they’ll have much trouble with their pool on Thursday. They took on both Capitals and Ozone at the Pro Flight Finale, beating them by a combined score of 30-12. Fury is deep, talented, and smart. Coach Matty Tsang is no stranger to how to manage the Club Championships and will have a gameplan for the new format. Julia Sherwood, Maggie Ruden, Claire Desmond, and Lisa Pitcaithley have emerged as the next generation of dominating players for the Bay area women.

The record is beautiful. Three undefeated tournament wins (US Open, Emerald City Classic, and Southwest Regionals) jump off the page. In the dominant fashion expected by a prospective champion, they’ve had blowout wins over Showdown, Capitals, Ozone, and Phoenix. They are 6-3 against the other pool one seeds, including 2-0 against Scandal and 3-2 against Riot.

All those numbers add up to make them the favorite.

Is Limited Exposure Hiding Capitals’ (8) True Ceiling?

Fury isn’t the only team in Pool A that knows how to win at the Club Championships. Capitals has turned into a consistent performer that goes deep into the tournament, making quarters last year, semifinals the year before that, the final in 2010, and another semifinal appearance in 2009. That’s a strong resume to bring into the weekend. So why the doubt?

The question mark that comes with Caps is born out of two things: weak performances, the primary reason, and limited exposure. As with most teams at Terminus, it is tough to say much about what those games meant. Aside from that, we only have the Pro Flight Finale and Regionals to judge Toronto on. What those tournaments tell us is that Capitals have a challenging Thursday and Friday ahead of them.

The overall eight seed was earned in large part with a pair of wins over Showdown, the overall nine seed. Both of those games were by a single point at the Pro Flight Finale. Against teams in the top eight seeds? They are 0-7 (and that does include Terminus) and they are just 5-8 against the field at large.

In Davis, they were tasked with trying to beat top tier teams to begin each day, and laid eggs in both of those match ups. Fortunately for Caps, they open the tournament with a game against in-region opponent, Bent, who they knocked out without trouble twice at Regionals. Let us also not forget that they came close to upsetting Riot at the Pro Flight Finale in their second game, eventually falling 15-13.

Kathryn Pohran, Darcy Drummond, and Malissa Lundgren can be expected to perform with a high level of consistency no matter what one on one battles they engage in, but it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of their roster competes.

Reeling Ozone (12) Attempting to Refocus

Earlier in the season, Ozone looked like one of the top contenders in the Women’s division to push into the top tier of teams. They looked very strong at Club Terminus, with a humming offensive line that was cutting through opponents despite integrating some new pieces. Then, at the Chesapeake Invite, they scored their biggest win of the season by besting Scandal in pool play. The Pro Flight Finale would provide them the opportunity to prove they were ready to fight with the game’s elite powers.

Things didn’t play out that way.

Atlanta would go 2-4 in Davis, with their only wins coming over Showdown and Molly Brown. They looked out of sorts at points, their fluid and flowing offense hiccuping under high pressure defense. Where other teams were showing their form, Ozone looked tired and even frustrated.

Those issues carried over to Southeast Regionals, where this year’s most surprising pair of upsets took place, with Phoenix – who had been scuffling themselves, up to that point – beat Ozone in pool play and in the title match. A team that, earlier in the year was being pegged as a possible pool one seed found themselves shoved behind a Phoenix team that was at risk of being a pool four seed. The result was the overall twelve seed for Atlanta.

The good news for Ozone is that the talent is still there for this team to be counted as a threat. Maddy Frey and Maureen McCamley have both proven top talents, able to use their experience and talent to win most of their match ups. Kate Wilson is still able to generate unders and use her big lefty hucks to open the field. Angela Lin and Katherine Wooten provide veteran presence with the break throws and hucks to keep things moving. Emily Lloyd and Lane Siedor are big athletes capable of winning battles in the air and downfield.

A lot of the firepower listed above takes the field when Ozone is receiving the pool. If their offense is back executing smooth disc movement and maximizing lane spacing, their whole game can take on a different tone. That will be the thing to watch for in Frisco.

Bent (13) With the Opportunity to Make Noise

If there’s one team (aside from Fury) excited to be in Pool A, it is probably pool four seed, New York Bent. Above them are talented teams that haven’t had a ton of success this season and are likely to go hard at one another. Bent has had the opportunity to play both teams and should be able to formulate a game plan coming into those games. It is the ideal conditions to form the perfect storm that is a big upset.

Bent is the top ranked pool four seed for a reason. They come into the tournament with a 4-7 record against the field, which is pretty good for their position. Most of those wins are either from the season opening Boston Invite or over fellow pool four seeds, but a victory over Molly Brown at Colorado Cup stands out. Perhaps even more exciting for Bent is a 13-14 loss to Ozone at Chesapeake Invite.

That said, they are 0-3 against their pool, losing to Capitals twice at Northeast Regionals, and in resounding fashion. They also have losses to Nightlock and Minneapolis Pop this season. While an upset is a possibility within their grasp, Bent has not been a model of consistency in 2013.

Pool Predictions

The smart money is on Fury to go 3-0, and with the format, it would be surprising if anybody comes close to beating them on Thursday. Ozone may make this prediction look foolish in Frisco, but there is so much talent there that it is reasonable to get an upset over Capitals. Bent puts up a fight against both Ozone and Capitals, but wins the 0-3 booby prize.

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